The Banquet

There was once a group of friends who lived an exciting life. Everyday was filled with adventure and risk. Each morning as they awoke the possibilities of the new day would flood their minds and they could hardly get through their morning routines fast enough before heading off to see what they would see.
This group of friends had been brought together by the most extraordinary leader. A principled yet compassionate visionary, he never seemed to need sleep and yet always found time to rest and relax with the friends. He never grew hungry, and shared all he had, yet seemed to enjoy meals more than anyone.
He was confident and competent and yet quick to empower others. No one ever had any doubt that this leader would be fine without them but neither did they fear he would ever choose to leave them.
Each day, their adventures revolved around the magnificent tasks that the leader was busy completing. It seemed that no matter how early they got started, they always found him there – wherever “there” happened to be – before they arrived.
Sometimes the tasks seemed menial, mundane and extremely normal. Sometimes the friends found themselves in the midst of monumental revolutions. Always, no matter how small or grand the task, they walked away knowing that the world was now a little better place.
Most agreed however, that the most amazing thing was the food. People everywhere were hungry. Food was scarce and often only obtained through incredible effort.
You would think that all this time spent working on the leader’s tasks would leave the friends little time to grow, buy or scavenge for sustenance. But no, somehow this leader threw extravagant feasts and provided the friends with more food than they could eat. The food was not only delicious, but it nourished their bodies better than any other food they had access to. They were strong and healthy, full of energy and passion.
Over time they began to realize that something should be done with all this food, it wasn’t right to keep it to themselves. And so they decided to host a banquet in the leader’s honor each week…seriously, there was a lot of food.
They would come together and share a meal from what they’d gathered during the previous week. They would invite other friends, neighbors, the poor people they passed on the street, anyone they happened to encounter – why should anyone go hungry when so much was available?
And they would raise their glasses in a toast to their benefactor and would share their stories of adventure. They began to realize that the more they gave away – both food and stories – the more they seemed to possess. Others began to inquire if they too could join this group of friends in their journey.
This pleased the leader tremendously. In fact, it had been the plan all along. He had seen the way other leaders, kings, presidents and dictators had used power and coercion to establish nations. He had noticed that a philosophy of scarcity seemed to keep people in their place. But this baffled him and so he set about quietly transforming the lives of a few people…knowing full well that when others heard about a life of plenty; an abundant life rich with meaning, a new society would be inevitable.
Over time this small group of friends did in fact grow to become a large society, but a sad thing began to happen.
Some people began to realize that they could stay in their beds, remain in their houses and skip the adventures entirely. When the end of week came around they could just listen to stories of other people’s adventures and share in the abundance of food that was provided. In fact, if they were careful and rationed wisely, they could gather enough food during the banquet to last them all week!
And so they would raise their glasses and toast the wise leader. Their eyes would tear up as they heard stories that warmed their hearts. They would shake their heads in bewilderment that there were still those who had not cast their lot with this group of friends. And then they would go home with pockets full of food.
Years went by and the number of people who found this loophole not only grew, but it came to be expected that only a chosen few would join in the leader’s adventures. A few more were selected to run the banquets. Afterall, the number of people participating had grown so much that it was only right to bring some order to the relational chaos that had developed. Elaborate banquet halls were constructed. Rules were established for proper dispersal and handling of food, with fewer and fewer people having access to the store rooms.
Most people found themselves quite content with just attending the banquets anyway. They didn’t have the same adventures as others, but then again, perhaps not everyone was cut out for such a life of risk. Besides, they rationalized, this way they could spend their time doing other worthwhile tasks around their house.
For the most part, the lives of the friends once again became dull and mundane. Mornings grew to be dreaded because they knew that today would be just like yesterday – boring and filled with a growing hunger.
Eventually, there were enclaves all over that were filled with friends whose bodies were no longer strong and healthy. In fact, without the sustenance they gathered at the weekly banquet, they could barely survive. They no longer understood the banquet’s primary purpose to be sharing an abundance of food, but rather the place where they procured enough for their continued existence. It was actually rare to find a banquet where the participants had even seen the leader during the previous week, let alone joined him in any adventures.
To make matters worse, as the number of people working with the leader decreased, so did the amount of food that was available. It wasn’t that the visionary leader had less to distribute, it was just that no one had gone to collect it. Most of the friends seemed completely unaware that everyday the leader was still out working on his amazing tasks…
And so, many people began to stop attending the feasts all together. They were angry with the leader for his apparent unfulfilled promises. Some began moving from banquet hall to banquet hall in search of one that would feed them sufficiently. Some gave up completely and went out in search of other food. It may not be as wonderful as the meals they’d heard about in the stories…but they hadn’t experienced those very often anyway.
Where the banquets were lacking in food, they were rich in ritual. Food became a metaphor today with the promise of real food in the future, once the leader finally and completely replaced the old societies with his new society; the toasts became perfunctory requirements; stories were memorized, analyzed, stylized, digitized and programitized… A competition began to arise between different groups of friends as to who could host the most beautiful banquet with or without food.
Other friends rejected the value of a “beautiful” banquet and focused instead on putting together properly orchestrated banquets. Without anything of immediate value to share with others, it became rare for anyone to invite a neighbor to the feast…afterall, there wasn’t much feasting taking place anyway. While a few people saw it as their calling to proclaim a feast in the future for those who would have the faith to wait for it today, most people didn’t feel they had the persuasive ability to convince friends to come and sit in anticipation of something they couldn’t prove.
And everyone sent fervent messages to the leader to send more food.
And a question began to form in the minds of people everywhere: Is there still any adventure or abundance in the world?
They say that if you listen carefully you can hear the leader whisper in response, “Come and see.”
Some say its just a story, as if any truly great story could ever be “just” a story…

Posted on November 22, 2010, in food, Missional, Missional church, missional living, parable, worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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